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Redskins’ defense is ‘better late than never’
Second-half adjustments key to winning streak
Overall, life is pretty good for the Washington Redskins, riding a five-game winning streak into Sunday's game at the Philadelphia Eagles. Robert Griffin III is expected to play, they control their playoff fate and coach Mike Shanahan said that "every game that we go into now, we believe that we'll win."
But it's especially good, at least on the defensive end, in the second half. Over the past three games, halftime adjustments have made the Redskins' defense look nothing short of elite.
"Guys are just making adjustments. Offenses in this league that you face are really good, a lot of them have great talent," linebacker Lorenzo Alexander said." And I think we come in and make some adjustments from a coaching standpoint and guys figure out what guys are doing to them and step up and end up making plays."
In the past three games, the Redskins allowed an average of 135.3 yards and 5.7 points in the second half after surrendering 211.3 yards and 16 points in the first. If they performed like that for 60 minutes, they'd have the top defense in the NFL.
"Yeah, you wonder that sometimes," outside linebacker Rob Jackson said. "But better late than never."
At the Cleveland Browns, the Redskins allowed more second-half yards than they did before halftime, but they created turnovers that changed the game. Jackson had the first and then London Fletcher added his own.
"I'll go back to Rob's interception. I think that was really the spark, the momentum that we needed," said Fletcher, who's probable to play Sunday with a left ankle injury. "We went into halftime down. I think it was the second play after the half and Rob got the interception and we were able to get a touchdown out of that."
Turnovers haven't been everything, though. Shanahan always wants to win the turnover battle, but there is something of a common thread about how the defense has stepped its game up in the second half lately.
"You kind of get an idea of how a team wants to attack you in the first half and you make [your] corrections, whether it's things you want to do from stopping the run or from a pass-game standpoint, maybe changing up our coverages or even possibly changing the way we're playing our coverages," Fletcher said. "That happens at halftime. You go in and make your adjustments."
Two weeks ago in the overtime victory over the Baltimore Ravens, defensive coordinator Jim Haslett said there were some technique changes at halftime. The reward was an impressive comeback.
And the reward for the defense's second-half performances lately is that the Redskins would clinch the NFC East by beating the Eagles and Dallas Cowboys.
The last time the Redskins had a second-half breakdown was Thanksgiving Day when they almost let a nice lead get away in Dallas. They gave up 17 points in the fourth quarter alone.
Since then the Redskins have allowed a total of 17 second-half points in three games.
"We've been able to do a really good job with that," Fletcher said, "and it's something you have to continue to do if you're going to win ball games."
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